Horacio Delgado
Commercial Manager of Mexico
Damen Shipyards Mexico
View from the Top

The Future of Marine Automation

Tue, 01/21/2020 - 15:24

Q: Damen Group is present across the globe. Where does Mexico fit within the company’s global portfolio?

A: The Americas as a whole is a very important part of Damen’s business, representing 23 percent of our average turnover in the last five years and Mexico is one of the biggest economies in the region. For this reason, Damen has been involved in Mexico for over 40 years. We consider the country to be of vital importance to our business and through the relationship with our long-term clients, such as Naviera Integral, Grupo TMM, Harren & Partner, SAAM, Grupo Boluda, Reylaver, SEMAR and with our representative Fermaca Marine, we have a permanent presence here. While the downturn slowed activity in the industry, in the last couple of years we have seen demand climb once more. This signals the confidence in the market and Damen is looking to expand its presence in oil and gas. The group has been particularly active in supplying tug boats and crew transport vessels to oil and gas players in Mexico, and we have been also working together with SEMAR. We do not yet have a larger offshore vessel at work in the Mexican energy market but we expect that to change soon. The group’s main regional repair yard is located in Curaçao and we have a smaller, new-build and repair yard in Cuba, both of which can service the Mexican market.

Q: What are the methods by which Damen achieves shortterm delivery services and cost reduction for clients?

A: Damen focuses on modular construction and standardization in the shipbuilding process. Standardization helps customers by providing proven vessels that offer the flexibility to meet a variety of demands via quick, straightforward customization. This focus and the stock we build for our high rotation vessels, like fthe tug boats, reduce delivery times further. For this reason, we can deliver many of our vessels within a couple of months instead of years. Our built stock also helps clients balance the financial investment compared to the purchase and payment of a unique vessel.

Q: What role does automation play in Damen’s shipbuilding process?

A: In shipbuilding, automation is used for specific tasks only. Steel plate cutting is an example. In the main, however, shipbuilding remains a labor-based industry that requires the participation of a human workforce. There can be no production lines akin to those found in the automotive industry because products are far larger and the work more intricate. Therefore, Damen Group’s average annual production is around 200 vessels from our 35 worldwide shipyards. The role of automation is more clearly seen within the operation of the vessels themselves. The company is concentrating on improving our designs for more extensive integration of smart technologies with the intention of developing a range of vessels that can be operated by just one person, but there is always a minimum safe manning requirement from the authorities. Although single-crew vessels already exist, the range of work they can carry out is limited. Dynamic Positioning (DP) is a technology that is growing in demand, with DP1 and DP2 being the most popular and the same goes for unmanned machinery spaces and remote monitoring of all vessel’s equipment and operation. At the moment, Damen Group is researching the potential of fully-automated vessels, meaning vessels without crew, which we believe will be possible and desirable in the future. Within the area of military vessels, technology is a definite focus.

Q: How is Damen Group supporting the growth of shipbuilding in Mexico?

A: Damen Group’s cooperation with SEMAR has helped build capabilities in Mexico, aiding a transfer of knowledge and technology that Damen can provide. We are building a groundbreaking vessel with SEMAR and the techniques we are using in its construction are cutting-edge. We have built 12 vessels with SEMAR and have seen the technical abilities and processes used by the Mexican workforce grow substantially to European standards from build to build. Via the Damen Technical Cooperation (DTC) concept, Damen is able to work in shipyards that are not our own. This requires that we adapt to the conditions of the new shipyard and work alongside diverse teams.


Damen Shipyards Group is the largest shipbuilding group in the Netherlands. It provides new building and repair services to clients located across the globe, with a strong focus on short delivery times and low operational costs.